Richest People in History Aristotle Onassis

About Aristotle Onassis, history, biography and worth of one of the richest men in history.



"The Golden Greek" was born in either 1900 (passport documentation) or 1906 (his claim) in the Turkish city of Smyrna (now Izmir). In 1922 Turkish troops rounded up the local Greek males and, according to Onassis, lynched one of his uncles right in front of him. Onassis fled from Smyrna with his family, going first to Greece and then on alone to Argentina. A poor foreigner on his own in Buenos Aires, he worked for 25 cent an hour as an operator for the telephone company, learning languages by eavesdropping on calls. He gradually entered the tobacco import business, started making big money, and by 1930 was a millionaire.

Noting that the Depression had cut ship prices to bargain levels, Onassis purchased six freighters in 1930 for $20,000 each. He continued to buy ships throughout the following decades until, by the late 1960s, he had built up a fleet of about 5 million tons. Much of this tonnage consisted of supertankers, vessels whose profitability Onassis was one of the first to recognize.

By 1973, however, the Golden Greek's health was in decline, and on Mar. 15, 1975, he died of pneumonia in a hospital outside of Paris. Onassis was buried on Skorpios, a 350-acre pine-covered island that he owned in the Ionian Sea off the west coast of Greece.

How Much?

Onassis amassed a fortune estimated at more than $500 million. His holdings included hotels, banks, and real estate in addition to his fleet of tankers and freighters. He owned Olympic Airways, the Greek national airline; homes in Athens, Monte Carlo, Montevideo, and Paris; and a floating palace called the Christina, on which he spent a good deal of his time and on which he met his second wife--Jacqueline Kennedy.

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